Environment Forum

from The Great Debate UK:

Pakistan floods show Asia’s vulnerability to climate change

By Lord Julian Hunt and Professor J. Srinivasan. The opinions expressed are their own.

It is more than a year since the devastating July and August 2010 floods in Pakistan that affected about 20 million people and killed an estimated 2,000. Many believe that the disaster was partially fuelled by global warming, and that there is a real danger that Pakistan, and the Indian subcontinent in general, could become the focus of much more regular catastrophic flooding.

Indeed, right now Pakistan is again experiencing massive flooding.  The UN asserts that, already, more than 5.5 million people have been affected and almost 4300 are officially reported dead, 100 of them children.

Last year’s calamity, in particular, highlights the  vulnerability of much of Asia to climate change, and has helped elevate this into one of the most important and pressing political and social issues in the region. Indeed, an increasingly prevailing view is that the impact of climate change could be worse in the region than all previous social, health and conflict disasters of the past.

In particular, there is growing recognition that global warming is dangerously linked to several significant threats, including not just natural disasters, but also energy, water, and food shortages as average rising temperatures reduce productivity and agricultural land is threatened by sea level rises and salinification of coastal areas.

from The Great Debate UK:

Why Pakistan monsoons support evidence of global warming

-Lord Julian Hunt is visiting Professor at Delft University, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own.-

The unusually large rainfall from this year’s monsoon has caused the most catastrophic flooding in Pakistan for 80 years, with the U.N. estimating that around one fifth of the country is underwater.  This is thus truly a crisis of the very first order.

Heavy monsoon precipitation has increased in frequency in Pakistan and Western India in recent years.  For instance, in July 2005, Mumbai was deluged by almost 950 mm (37 inches) of rain in just one day, and more than 1,000 people were killed in floods in the state of Maharashtra.  Last year, deadly flash floods hit Northwestern Pakistan, and Karachi was also flooded.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s cry for water

Pakistan is running out of water so fast that the shortage will strangulate all water-based economic activity by 2015, a Pakistani thinktank says.  And that pretty much covers 70 percent of the population  who are involved in farming.

This is not a new warning.  In recent months,  as this blog itself has noted, experts have painted an increasingly bleak scenario of Pakistan's rivers drying up, the ground water polluted and over-exploited and the whole water infrastructure in a shambles.

But Pakistan, as the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies says, is not listening.  Pakistan has gone from a "water scarce" country to a "water-stressed" country, worse than Ethiopia, the Centre says quoting a  2006 World Bank study. In 10 years time, it will become a water-famine country.  

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and the melting glaciers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Pakistan is to dig itself out of its current crisis it needs two things to happen.  It needs strong economic growth to tackle poverty and undercut the appeal of hardline Islamists; and it needs peace with India if it is to permanently cut its ties with militants it has traditionally seen as a reserve force to be used against its much bigger neighbour.  Or so goes the prevailing view.

This week's United Nations report on pollution in Asia -- and the melting of glaciers which feed the rivers of India and Pakistan -- suggest there are serious risks to that scenario of an ultimately prosperous Pakistan at peace with its neighbours. In other words, can it achieve the economic growth it needs without worsening pollution further? And can it make peace with India if the two countries end up at loggerheads over dwindling supplies of water?

According to the U.N. report (see full pdf document here), thick clouds of brown soot and other pollutants are hanging over Asia, darkening cities, disrupting the monsoon and accelerating the melting of the mountain glaciers. These atmospheric brown clouds exacerbate the effect of global warming by depositing soot on the glaciers, which captures more solar heat than white snow and ice. "If the current rate of retreat continues unabated, these glaciers and snow packs are expected to shrink by as much as 75 percent before the year 2050, posing grave danger to the region's water security," it says.

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